Why Athletes Need to Rest After Exercise + 8 Ways to Recover Fast
You’re new to cycling or an avid runner, you're doing intense fitness or kickboxing? As a result, no matter what you do, your body hurts and aches?
Putting stress on our muscles creates microscopic tears and it makes us sore at first. Once we recover, this process helps us to become stronger by increasing muscle mass (1). So it is basically very normal to feel some kind of aches. On the other hand, being ultra sore and stiff means that we need to rest those muscles. In addition to rest, there are foods that we can eat and things that we can do to speed up our recovery. We condensed a few tips below to help you include active recovery techniques as part of your healthy lifestyle.
Why is recovery so important?
Recovery time post exercise is crucial to muscle and tissue repair as well as for building strength. This is even more important after an intense weight training workout for instance. Our muscles need anywhere between 24 to 48 hours to recover, repair and rebuild. Working out too fast after a training session could lead to tissue damage instead of building strength.
When we exercise, our bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments get weaker in order to become stronger. During a workout or an intense physical activity, our muscle tissues break down, our muscles' energy gets depleted and we lose a lot of fluids.
"Giving our body a break or a rest doesn’t mean to stop and sit on the couch all day, watching Netflix, and eating unhealthy foods," says Marion Moreau, fitness trainer and member of Caliloko's fitness team. We should absolutely take time to lie down and chill when we need it, however a completely sedentary day isn't necessary. In other words, we can be active without working out.
Resting our muscles helps to heal and makes us stronger. Sports Health published a study showing that inadequate rest can contribute to poor immune function, neurological changes, hormonal disturbances and even depression.
“If you are active and do not like the idea of rest, your recovery day can include long walks, light swimming, yoga or mobility exercises. Anything that doesn't break the tissue down more. The more you worked a muscle, the more time you need to heal. For our muscles to grow stronger, after they are broken down during intense exercise such as lifting heavy weights, we all need plenty of protein and water. This is what our muscles are mostly made of,” says Marion.
Avoid over training
For weight training routines, this means that we should never work out the same muscle groups two days in a row.
“We can push our bodies beyond what one can imagine. But at some point, after sending so many warnings, the body will snap somehow. So, if we are extremely sore from working out, give ourself some rest for two days in a row. We then should do some active recovery such as mobility training, dynamic stretching or yoga. This is important if we want to achieve our exercise goals. Otherwise, we may get tired but also discouraged because it doesn't bring us physical results or mental relief,” explains Marion.
Choose a recovery day
We recommend to choose a day as a recovery day and ensure that our body is ready, all while wearing Caliloko recovery tights or calf sleeves. Recovery compression clothing helps accelerate muscle repair by enhancing blood circulation (4). Based on research published by the Institute of Medical Physics, Institute of Outdoor Sports and Environmental Science and Department of Medical and Life Sciences University of Furtwangen in Germany, it is recommended that athletes wear compression tights for faster recovery, particularly after intense exercise. (4)
“You also need plenty of quality sleep. By working out consistently without rest, the body doesn't have time to heal. We come to the point of overtraining. We are exhausted. We may not feel it because our mind wants to ignore what the body is trying to say.
My best advice is to listen to your body. For instance, once you start loosing appetite, lacking focus or sleep, feeling depressed or agitated, your energy is no longer available. You are on survival mode and no longer able to perform at the best of your capacity,” says Marion.
Here’s how to speed up your recovery
Instead of just dealing with the fatigue and soreness, try one of these tips backed by science to help your body feel better, faster.
8 quick tips to speed up your recovery after exercise
Our muscles are actually 75% water. Drinking a lot of water helps to replace the fluids that you might have lost during a workout. For serious athletes, hydration is one of the most fundamental ways to boost post workout recovery and unlock optimal performance.
It is also noted that we must reduce alcohol consumption which dehydrates our body. If we are dehydrated post workout, the protein synthesis required to rebuild our muscles will be less effective and delay our recovery time. Indeed, hydration is a key factor during the process of protein synthesis after the workout (2). Such process allows muscle repair and makes them stronger after being broken down by intense physical activity. When we are dehydrated after working out, protein synthesis and recovery are delayed. The American Council of Exercise recommends to drink the necessary fluid gradually between the time we finish our first workout and 1-2 hours before we start our next one. (2)
Drinking water helps balance our PH levels, transport nutrients in our organs, regulate our body temperature and flush out toxins from the muscles.
When we sweat a lot on long distance runs or perform very high intensity workouts, it is also recommenced to add sports drink containing carbs and electrolytes to our fluids. I personally use clean and naturally sourced ingredients. These electrolytes help me go through my runs with more energy especially when it is hot and humid in Florida, where I live.
2. Nutritional Recovery
The foods we eat provides our body with the building blocks needed to repair muscles and promote recovery. Over the past 20 years, I have carefully selected the foods that I put on the table. It has helped me build stronger muscles and stay on my set point. As I have increased my fitness activities, I've discovered that food selection is even more important not only to have enough energy to perform but also to boost my immune system and recover faster. I asked the opinion of two experts in the field: why is food so important when we want to recover after fitness?
"After a workout, eating enough to recharge our body and restore glycogen is key to our recovery process. Certain foods can help us recover faster, and even reduce the well known feeling of next-day soreness," said Steven Bentley, Endurance Performance Coach, Owner of Bentley Coaching based in Texas. "And if we eat our meal within three hours after our workout, research shows that it will help as well."
"A whole-foods-based diet rich in antioxidants, whole carbohydrates, and lean protein can help trigger the right changes in your body between workouts, so your system is in better shape when it comes time for the next workout," explains Chris Kolba, PhD, a physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
"As an endurance performance coach there's usually three things I'm doing with someone in their training: 1) working on technique or efficiency; 2) improving oxygen capacity or increasing fat adaptation (fueling efficiency) and 3) creating muscular stress and breakdown so the athlete can recover from that to get stronger/better/faster, " explains Steven. "Of these the third is highly dependent on recovery from that stress. We are what we eat and if someone doesn't properly fuel their body afterwards then they won't get as much out of the workout stress they create."
"So training isn't performance improvement. Training is the potential for performance improvement. What we do outside our training with our food and rehydration dictates the percentage of benefit we get from the training we do. Want better recovery that allows you to work out harder more often? Then eat better quality food. It's the micronutrients and amino acids that give your body the building blocks it needs to better recover from the training stress you put it through. Better recovery leads to better performance," adds Steven.
Recovery Foods Examples
>Taro roots are a great source of carbohydrates and fiber. They are perfect to combine with a protein source.
>Blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants, which helps muscle repair.
>Chia seeds provide key minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium, supply anti-inflammatory fats, helping for faster muscle recovery. Quick recipe: add 3 table spoons to 1/2 cup of almond milk in a little bowl and sprinkle stevia for taste (or any natural sweetener that you like); mix well. Let it rest in the fridge for a few hours. It is the perfect dessert for a sweet tooth. 🙂
>Anti-inflammatory foods like tart cherry, ginger, turmeric are recommended as well. Especially if you want a natural replacement to Ibuprofen.
>Bananas are also infused with carbohydrates and potassium, two post-workout nutrients.
>Green tea is a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols which are muscle friendly. In a research published by Physiology and Behavior, men who drank 500mg of green tea extract reduced markers of muscle damage caused by exercise.
3. Eat proteins
Eating something with proteins before and post workout helps repair damaged muscle tissue and even build new lean tissue. Protein is a macronutrient that constitutes a major component of our cells and provides essential amino acids.
Leslie Bonci, nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice, says that we should eat proteins every 4-5 hours. It makes sense since recovery is a continuous process. Therefore we should take it as part of our meals and snacks. If we don't eat enough proteins, we are more prone to stress fractures (3), hair luster loss, muscles density reduction, feeling less strong and a weaker immune system.
4. Hot tub and sauna
A hot tub is a great way to relax after a workout. It is what I do pretty much every time I run a long distance or play a tough squash match. It helps heat up our body and relax our muscles, and it feels better with the massaging water jets. Sometimes I’ll combine with a cold shower, which helps eliminate the soreness even faster, at least it works well for me just like what Romans did in the ancient times 🙂
People also enjoy the muscle relaxation that sauna therapy provides. Dry heat is known to help the muscles eliminate lactic acid and come back stronger after a workout. As a bonus, that type of heat contributes to slight fat burning.
5. Compression wear
Compression clothing has long been used, for over a century now, on patients recovering from surgery to aid circulation. Inspired by medical science, the compression industry started to offer athletes compression calf sleeves or tights which we started to see more and more in many amateur events, CrossFit gyms and professional sports. Caliloko was created with this desire to help improve circulation, remove toxins, enhance physical performance and reduce recovery time all while being good looking functional designs and very high quality fabrics knitted with premium yarns and finished by hand.
Now let’s go back to the conversation about “why compression clothing would help faster recovery”. Simply said, compression wear is noticeably tighter than regular pants, socks or sleeves — so it is a tightening force on the muscles. The gradual pressure is known to improve blood flow to these particular muscles which helps eliminate toxins and reduce soreness faster. (4)
As a result, once we put pressure on the surface of specific muscle structures, the flow of blood is stimulated. Essentially, it’s pushed along more forcefully. And this is the reason why we recommend to wear our recovery tights and calf sleeves when we are in that recovery period of 24-48 hours. During that period our blood flow is back to normal, as opposed to a high energetic flow during physical exercise. When we relax, chill or even go to bed for the night, we can really benefit from wearing compression clothing to help increase the blood flow and thus, recover faster.
Why gradual compression is important?
Just like massage therapy, it needs to be tighter at the ankles and gradually apply less pressure through the calves to act as a natural pump, flushing out deoxygenated blood back to the heart—it can’t just be the same tightness over the entire body, otherwise it could trap the blood and have a negative effect. Having the right fit is very important. If the garment is too loose, then we don't achieve the recovery goal.
Compression gear “allows for 30% more oxygen to be delivered to muscles before, during and after a workout,” explains Jena Gatses. As a physical and manual therapist, strength and conditioning coach and exercise specialist, Jena works to improve her patients’ performance and recovery, so tools like compression gear allow her to expedite the process. “More oxygen to the muscles means better performance, less fatigue and faster recovery,” Jena explains. (5)
6. Massage therapy and Myofascial release
Myofascial release (sometimes called soft tissue therapy) includes massage therapy, foam rolling, active release therapy balls and percussion massage tools. Performed immediately before and after exercise, it may help decrease feelings of delayed onset muscle soreness while speeding up muscle recovery. (6)
7. Cold water therapy or cryotherapy
Roman medicine used extreme cold to reduce inflammation and pain. Cold water immersion, for short periods of time, can act as a stimulating therapy. After bathing in the hot water pools, Romans would go for a quick dip in the 'frigidarium', or cold water bath and close their pores. Studies have shown that taking an ice bath (7) can significantly reduce soreness and inflammation for up to 25 hours after exercise, plus it rejuvenates you in no time. According to the American Council on Exercise, cold water immersion can increase vasoconstriction "which may aid in mitigating the inflammatory response in the tissue affected by the training performance. The added hydrostatic pressure to the body is thought to aid in increasing the osmotic gradient and allows for a better “flushing” of metabolic by-products". (7)
"Today, the power of cold has been harnessed by Cryotherapy, which is recognized by the medical community for its ability to speed recovery, fight inflammation, treat pain, decrease signs of aging, strengthen the immune system, boost energy, heighten the metabolism, and improve overall health and wellness", says Natasha Pyka, Manager of BocaCryo, who has a degree in Biochemistry and a passion for health and wellness. "Cryotherapy has even been shown to improve the healing process with soft tissue and joints, making it a beneficial treatment for rheumatic disorders and muscle soreness".
Having a good night sleep consistently gives our body time to recover, keeps energy in the bank, rejuvenates and builds up the muscles that we used during physical exercises. Sleep helps the body produce growth hormones which in fact are important to build lean muscles and help our body recover when we have done an intense workout.
The number of hours of sleep that we need depends on the intensity and frequency of our exercise, as well as on each individual. It is important to listen to our body and understand the impact of lack of sleep on our recovery.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 30 percent of us are sleep-deprived, which means we're not getting the recommended seven to eight hours a night required for adults,” wrote Ashley Mateo, Health Writer.
Many professional athletes sleep between 10-12 hours per night and nap an hour or so during the day to maintain their endurance. It is definitely important to make sleep a priority in our training schedule if muscle recovery is important to us. Consistency is also key. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps a lot. However, research has shown that a single sleepless night, due to stress before a competition for example, won’t affect performance.
Caliloko recovery compression helps eliminate toxins after exercise and prevents swelling. Our 4-way stretch high-tech fabrics and body mapping designs help activate your blood circulation. With less muscle soreness, you give yourself the best odds to improve your next physical exercise and overall performance.
Caliloko offers two different recovery products: Oceanside recovery tights for women and men and Santa Barbara calf sleeves for women and men. If you have any questions, please contact us.
(1) According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
(2) Exercise and heat trigger dehydration and an increase in extracellular fluid osmolality, leading to deficits in exercise performance and thermoregulation. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 1.25–1.5 L of replacement fluid for every 1 kg lost during exercise, as fluid loss continues post-exercise as a result of continued sweating and urinary losses. Link
(3) According to a 2018 research review from some of the world's leading osteoporosis foundations, it was found that eating a protein-rich diet can help protect our bones.
(4) "Recent meta-analyses on compression garments have reported faster recovery of muscle function particularly after intense eccentric power or resistance exercise.” In article: Effects of Compression Tights on Recovery Parameters after Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: Link
(5) Article: How to Use Compression Gear to Get the Most out of Your Training: Link
(6) Current Sports Medicine Reports reported in the article: Is Self Myofascial Release an Effective Preexercise and Recovery Strategy? A Literature Review Link
(7) American Council on exercise said: "The coolness of the water helps to decrease the core and skin temperature, which increases the heat-storage capacity, causes peripheral vasoconstriction and increases central blood volume." Link